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Debates about the core and the scope of the IS field and about whether the core and scope are related to a crisis in the field have smoldered for many years. This article is a response to ten articles submitted by members of the CAIS Editorial Board who accepted an invitation to contribute to a debate about the core and scope of the IS field. Those articles were written as responses to Benbasat and Zmud’s [2003] article “The Identity Crisis Within the IS Discipline: Defining and Communicating the Discipline’s Core Properties” and my rebuttal [Alter 2003b] entitled “Sidestepping the IT Artifact, Scrapping the IS Silo, and Laying Claim to “Systems in Organizations.”

The present article is organized around excerpts related to the major topics the ten articles address as a group:

  • What are the core and scope of the IS field?
  • Is “the IT artifact” a meaningful concept?
  • Whatever the core might be today, could tomorrow bring something different?
  • Who is the customer of IS research?
  • Do we believe the IS discipline is having an identity crisis?
  • How do institutional issues shape the IS field?
  • What if we followed Benbasat and Zmud’s suggestions?

The conclusion attempts to sort out various views of the core, scope, and (possible) crisis of the IS field by identifying major products and major customers of the academic IS field and asking which customers are interested in which products. If a crisis exists, it is about the perceptions of certain customers, but not others, and may be only tangentially related to issues about the core or scope of the IS field. On the other hand, the core and scope of the IS field do have implications for the value of the products it produces and for its long-term ability to serve all of its major customers.


Originally published in Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 12(41), pp. 607-628


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